For decades, National Review has performed a hygienic function on the right, defining the bounds of respectable conservatism, marking it off from unreasoned, bigoted or conspiratorial worldviews. It acted as a virus check, targeting ideas which in fact were Trojan horses for dangerous radicalism — whether racial, religious or ideological. On several occasions, that magazine used its power for good, excluding from its pages apologists for ultra-nationalism, eugenics, racism, anti-Semitism and paranoid anti-government hysteria.Now, for the bad, and I expect it to eventually get ugly.
I do not have the time for a full fisking of this piece. It does not rise to the level of an honorable surrender. Four points stand out, however:
- Steorts writes that
"Civil marriage was instituted, let us concede, to safeguard the interests of children by endorsing and protecting the kind of stable, committed relationships that produce them and are suited to their upbringing. But there is no way to know in advance which couples can or will have children."If this is the reason for the government's having instituted civil recognition of marriages, and such has failed, then the correct solution of to cease insisting on such civil recognition. Abolish the death tax, or allow joint ownership of property, and allow up to two people to file taxes jointly (better still, get rid of the IRS entirely), etc., and call a failure a failure and remove it rather than expanding it.
- Later in the article, he states that "Many traditionalists do deny that same-sex couples have any reason to adhere to traditional marital standards. This denial is usually based on the idea that their relationships have no value to begin with." Here he is not merely arguing that we should surrender on a lost cultural front, but is in fact insisting that the view that such relationships between sodomites are inherently bad. Implication--those of us who continue to recognize sin as sin are to be cast out. To whit: "In their ideological absolutism, many traditionalists today stand in the way of such a synthesis. Their position on same-sex marriage is tragic, in that they have taken a stand against burgeoning social endorsement of commitment and sexual exclusivity as ends in themselves." This misses a large part of the point of why sexual exclusivity and commitment matters to begin with. Morally, the answer is evident, but beyond the religious aspects of morality, there is this: the point of exclusivity and commitment is to foster a healthy relationship between two people, to foster a healthy intimacy. Homosexual relationship lack this, because the two do not become "one flesh," neither in the spiritual-religious moral sense nor the strictly physical, biological, anatomical, and physiological sense.
- There is one point which he gets partially correct, namely:
"There is something that traditionalists could do to make their views seem less cruel and arbitrary: They could return to Christianity’s original, austere understanding of the purpose of sex. The early Christians hotly debated whether marriage even between a man and a woman should be endorsed; many thought celibacy was to be preferred. And even though marriage was finally recognized as a sacrament, the mainstream of the early Church did not think of marriage and sex as a way of expressing love and affection at all, but rather regarded procreation as its sole purpose."Ignore the part where he puts an implicit opposition between a sacramental view of marriage and the early Church's view of it. This diagnosis is in part correct in that if we Christians would abide by our marital vows--including, notably, openness to life (which precludes contraception) and closedness to the false idea of dissolving marriages with divorce, then so-called "gay marriage" would likely not be such an issue.
- He attempts to throw a bone towards traditionalists (and Christians) by stating that there is a difference between opposition to homosexual relationships and racism, between opposing "gay marriage" and supporting racial segregation. There is, after all, a choice involved in engaging in homosexual activity. But then, he writes
"But one can push that point only so far, given the reality of congenital sexual orientation, i.e., the fact that, for many people if not for all, the kind of emotional and physical attraction that precedes sexual intimacy is by nature limited to or predominately directed toward members of a particular sex. What traditionalists must in honesty be said to reject is, if not a deep aspect of personal identity per se, then the expression of a deep aspect of personal identity. And the significance of that rejection is often minimized in ways so glib and irrelevant as to suggest that those who offer them refuse to grapple seriously with the issue — for example, their facile observation that there are many people who, for whatever reason, are unable to achieve romantic fulfillment (as if being unable to achieve it were the same thing as being told not to try), and their facile observation that “we are all sinners” (as if what counts as a sin were not in question here)."In other words, we who call a sin a sin ought to just keep our mouths shut, because anything we say will always sound hollow or "glib" or callous. Perhaps it will, and that's unfortunate. We can always improve in the tactfulness and charitableness departments. But ceasing to proclaim some aspect of truth because it hurts someone's feelings? That seems like a bit of an overcompensation in the other direction. And, of course, it also can lend itself to severe curtailing of free speech and freedom of religion, if acted upon.